'Racino' on track to open next week at Scioto Downs
May 23, 2012 (Menafn - The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --By the end of next week, central Ohio gamblers will have a casino of their own.
Plans were announced yesterday to open the casino at Scioto Downs on June 1, joining a rush of casino openings planned across the state.
Scioto Downs will be the first combination racetrack and video-gambling casino -- or "racino" -- in the state. It will feature 1,800 video-lottery terminals and could soon start providing 3 million a month to the state.
"We're very excited, and we're expecting a lot of people," said Scioto Downs general manager Troy Buswell.
The Scioto Downs news comes on the heels of the May 14 opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. Hollywood Casino Toledo will open Tuesday, and Hollywood Casino Columbus is slated to begin operations later this year. Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati will open next year.
Ohio's six other racetracks also are expected to apply for licenses to operate electronic gambling devices, said Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Marie Kilbane.
"We expect them to, but that's a decision they each have to make," she said of the 50 million licensing process.
An industry expert thinks there are enough gamblers in Ohio to make all these ventures viable.
"The racinos and casinos are pretty spread out over a big geographic area," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"It's clear people from Ohio have been gambling for years, and now they're trying to recapture the dollars that had been leaving the state."
The Ohio Lottery issued a video-lottery terminal license Monday afternoon to MTR Gaming Group, the parent company of Scioto Downs.
"We got the word at about 4 p.m. and went to work on all the finishing touches," Buswell said. " June 1 has always been our target date to open."
The racetrack portion of Scioto Downs, at 6000 S. High St., is open. The casino will open in two phases beginning June 1, when the doors open and will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Phase one includes the Veil bar and lounge, Dash cafe and the 1,800 video-lottery terminals, which are basically electronic games of chance similar to slot machines.
Phase two will add the 300-seat Grove buffet and 325 more video lottery games, for a total of 2,125, Buswell said, adding that the phase could be completed by the end of summer.
The electronic games at Scioto Downs must pay out a minimum of 85 percent of what they take in from customers, according to regulations of the Ohio Lottery. The agency estimates that these electronic games will generate 3 million per month in revenue that will be used to support education programs in the state.
"This is basically a conservative figure, but this is all new and we'll see what the market bears," Kilbane said.
The state's monthly take was calculated, she said, based on 1,500 video lottery terminals in use, each producing 225 a day in profit after the 85 percent payout.
"The state's take of the 225 is 33.3 percent," Kilbane said.
Scioto Downs initially will operate 1,800 games, so the state's income could be higher. Buswell said MTR has specific revenue projections but declined to share them. He did say the Ohio Lottery's projections of 3 million a month were "absolutely possible. We came to an agreement with them and understand the expectations."
He also declined to say what the payout rate will be from the Scioto Downs electronic games, saying only that it will meet the state minimum.
Schwartz said Nevada has a minimum payout rate similar to Ohio's, but the average payout in Las Vegas is 93.8 percent.
"And I would expect a similar, above-the-statutory-minimum payout in Ohio," he said.
The Ohio Roundtable, an anti-gambling organization, has sued to block the opening of Scioto Downs and other racinos in the state. A Franklin County judge has yet to rule on the whether to dismiss the lawsuit.
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